Stefan Arvidsson

Stefan Arvidsson

Department of Cultural Sciences Faculty of Arts and Humanities
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My research focuses on the cultural history of modern ideologies, meaning that I study ideas of modern-day religions, political movements and commercial milieus that revolves around how we should live our modern lives and live them together. In order to seize these ideas, I study influential books and pamphlets, but primarily spend my time analysing how the ideas are worked out in myths, legends, utopias, rituals, political actions, iconography, propaganda, clothes and other symbolic expressions. I consider how these expressions persuade and electrify people by making use of references to authority (ethos), including to the highest authority (God, Nation, People, Nature etcetera), and by stirring emotions (pathos), nourishing imaginations and being beautiful, rather than by making use of facts and reason (logos). That way of analysis, I understand to be the special approach of the history of religions, and I find it useful regardless of whether the ideological culture is legitimized by religious or secular rhetoric. Once the history of religions was known as comparative religion, which I in my case is fitting since I like to compare, synthesize and generalize, to try to discover general patterns.

More specifically, my research may be divided into three areas of interest.

(1) Habitually, comparative mythology deals with premodern cultures. I, however, take interest in what I think of as ”modern mythology”, i.e. the sum of stories shaped by capitalism, the bourgeoisie, the cultural industry, commercialism, science, humanism and secularization and that in its turn shapes our understanding of what a good life looks like. In my dissertation, Aryan Idols: Indo-European Mythology as Ideology and Science (2006; Ariska idoler: den indoeuropeiska mytologin som ideologi och vetenskap, 2000), I examine the most sinister mythology of modern times and its (pseudo-)scientific legitimations. The volume Minne och myt: konsten att skapa det förflutna (2004), that I edited together with Åsa Berggren and Ann-Mari Hållans, touches inter alia upon modern myths. In Draksjukan. Mytiska fantasier hos Tolkien, Wagner och de Vries (2007), written as part of the Riksbankens jubileumsfond funded project ”Roads to Midgard: old Norse religion in long-times perspective”, I track down how one old Norse myth was rewritten to fit modern sentiments and explore the ideological and aesthetic ideas that informed the different modern versions. The contexture of myth and politics is the object for The Style and Mythology of Socialism: Socialist Idealism 1871–1914 (2017; Morgonrodnad: socialismens stil och mytologi 1871–1914, 2016).

(2) The Style and Mythology of Socialism, like the volume Socialist Imaginations: Utopias, Myths, and the Masses (2019) that I edited with Jakub Beneš and Anja Kirsch, joins “modern mythology” with my second area of interest, namely the relationship between religion and politics in the modern era. With support from Riksbankens jubileumsfond, I have written Religion and Politics under Capitalism: A Humanistic Approach to the Terminology, 2019; Religion och politik under kapitalismen: humanistiska tankar och termer, 2022). It is attempt to bring together research on religion, politics, myth and secularization executed within separate disciplines. Röd tro: Socialistisk kultur och livsåskådning under tvåhundra år (2023), also funded by Riksbankens jubileumsfond, presents an overview of the relationship since the French revolution between, on the one hand, various socialist movements and, and on the other hand, religious and secular  traditions. The ongoing project to put together Handbook of Socialist Cultures, with Anja Kirsch, is closely related to that monograph.

(3) My third area of interest concerns the history and nature of the humanities, their relevance and assets for contemporary societies. My dissertation partly belongs to this area of interests, as do the volume Människor och makter: en introduktion till religionsvetenskap (2008, second edition 2010); the introduction book for students, Varför religionsvetenskap? En ämnesintroduktion för nya studenter (2011); as well as the special issues of Temenos: Nordic journal of comparative religion (2015) focusing on the humanistic research on religion. Some publications on Marxist cultural theory likewise belongs to this area of interest.

Doctor in philosophy and associate professor in the history of religions at Lund university in 2000 and 2007. Professor in the history of religions at Stockholm university and the study of religions at Linnaeus university in 2012.



Röd tro: Socialistisk kultur och livsåskådning under tvåhundra år. Lund: Arkiv förlag/A-Z förlag, 2023

Religion and Politics under Capitalism: A Humanistic Approach to the Terminology. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2019. Swedish version: Religion och politik under kapitalismen: humanistiska tankar och termer. Lund: Arkiv förlag/A-Z förlag, 2022

Socialist style and mythology. Socialist Idealism, 1871-1914. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge 2017. Swedish version: Morgonrodnad: Socialismens stil och mytologi 1871-1914. Lund: Nordic Academic Press, 2016

Varför religionsvetenskap? En ämnesintroduktion för nya studenter. Lund: Studentlitteratur, 2012

Draksjukan: mytiska fantasier hos Tolkien, Wagner och de Vries. Lund: Nordic Academic Press, 2007

Aryan idols: Indo-European mythology as ideology and science. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006. Swedish version: Ariska idoler: Den indoeuropeiska mytologin som ideologi och vetenskap. Eslöv: Brutus Östlings bokförlag Symposion, 2000.


With Jakub Beneš and Anja Kirsch: Socialist Imaginations: Utopias, Myths, and the Masses. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2018

Guest editor for special issue on the humanistic studies of religions, Temenos: Nordic journal of comparative religion, vol. 51, no. 2, 2015

With Jonas Svensson: Människor och makter 2.0: En introduktion till religionsvetenskap, 2nd extended edition. Halmstad: Högskolan i Halmstad, 2010. 1st edition: Människor och makter. En introduktion till religionsvetenskap. Halmstad: Högskolan i Halmstad, 2008

Marxismens filosofi: apropos ett jubileum. Stockholm: Brutus Östlings bokförlag Symposion, 2007

With Åsa Berggren and Ann-Mari Hållans: Minne och myt: konsten att skapa det förflutna. Lund: Nordic Academic Press, 2004


“Wagner, Humanism, Socialism and the Rise of Modern Mythology”, Mark Berry and Nicholas Vazsonyi, eds., The Cambridge Companion to Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen. Cambridge: Cambridge University press, forthcoming 2019

”Världsträdets metamorfoser i socialistisk, utopisk kosmologi”, in Cecilia Ljung et al, eds., Tidens landskap: en vänbok till Anders Andrén. Lund, Nordic Academic Press, 2019

“Myths and utopias, critics and caretakers. In defence of revisionist history”, in Hugh B. Urban and Greg Johnson, eds., Irreverence and the Sacred. Critical Studies in the History of Religions. Festschrift in honour of Bruce Lincoln. Oxford: Oxford University press, 2018

With Jakub Beneš and Anja Kirsch: “Introduction: Socialist Imaginations”, Socialist Imaginations: Utopias, Myths, and the Masses. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2018

”Aryan: Conceptual History”, in Wenda Trevathan, ed., The International Encyclopedia of Biological Anthropology. New York: John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 2018

“Editor’s note: Locating the humanistic within the study of religions”, Temenos: Nordic journal of comparative religion, vol. 51, no. 2, 2015

“The Humanistic Study of Religions. An obscure tradition illuminated by the “Knights of Labor”, Temenos: Nordic journal of comparative religion, vol. 51, no. 2, 2015. Swedish version: ”Humanistisk religionsforskning. En otydlig tradition belyst av ’Arbetets riddare’”, Chaos: Skandinavisk tidsskrift for religionshistoriske studier, no. 60, 2013

With Nina Björk: ”Terry Eagleton”, in Stefan Jonsson, ed., Samtida politisk teori. Stockholm: Tankekraft, 2015

“Blood-Suckers! The concepts revisionist and anti-revisionist mythology introduced by the vampire- and werewolf-tetralogy Underworld (2003-2012)”, Journal of Religion and Film, vol. 18 no. 2, 2014. Swedish version: ”Utsugare! Begreppen revisionistisk och antirevisionistisk mytologi introducerade med hjälp av en vampyr- och varulvsfilm”, Chaos: Dansk-norsk tidsskrift for religionshistoriske studier, no. 52, 2011

“Recycling Narrations in a Post-Modern Market: Some Questions about Myth Today”, in Catharina Raudvere, Krzysztof Stala and Trine Stauning Willert, eds., Rethinking the space for religion: new actors in Central and Southeast Europe on religion, authenticity and belonging. Lund: Nordic Academic Press, 2012. Swedish version: ”Myt idag. Tankar om myt, politik och kultur i vår samtid”, Chaos: Skandinavisk tidsskrift for religionshistoriske studier, no. 53, 2012.

“Religionsvetenskap”, “Teologi”, Nationalencyklopedin, digital edition, 2012

"Greed and the nature of evil. Tolkien versus Wagner", Journal of Religion and Popular Culture, vol. 22, no. 2, 2010

”Inledning” (with Jonas Svensson), ”Klassifikation av religioner”, ”Religionsekologi”, ”Jämförande religionshistoria”, in by Jonas Svensson and Stefan Arvidsson, eds., Människor och makter 2.0: En introduktion till religionsvetenskap. 2nd extended edition. Halmstad: Högskolan i Halmstad, 2010

”Moderna myter och revolutionära drömmar. Exemplet Nibelungens ring av Richard Wagner”, in Samuel Edquist, Lars Hermanson, & Stefan Johansson, eds., Tankar om ursprung: forntiden och medeltiden i nordisk historieanvändning. Stockholm: Statens historiska museum, 2009

”Germania. Noen hovedlinjer i forskningen om fortidens germanere”, in Jorunn Sem Fure, & Terje Emberland, eds., Jakten på Germania: fra nordensvermeri til SS-arkeologi. Oslo: Humanist, 2009

”Drudgery Dwarf. On the Absence of Labour in the Nibelungen Tradition”, in Anders Andrén, Kristina Jennbert and Catharina Raudvere, eds., Old Norse Religion in Long Time Perspective. Lund: Nordic Academic Press, 2006. More extensive Swedish version: ”Slita dvärg. Om frånvaron av arbete i Nibelungentraditionen”, in Anders Andrén, Kristina Jennbert and Catharina Raudvere, eds., Hedendomen i historiens spegel. Bilder av det förkristna Norden. Lund: Nordic Academic Press, 2005

”Återbruket av den fornnordiska mytologin i vår samtid" / ”The Reuse of Norse mythology in our times — Myth and Modernity”, Odens öga — mellan makter och människor i det förkristna Norden. Exhibition catalogue. Helsingborg: Dunkers Kulturhus, 2006

”Gud är en pseudonym”, in Catharina Raudvere and Olav Hammer, eds., Med Gudomlig auktoritet. Om religionens kraft i politiken. Göteborg: Makadam förlag, 2004

”Religionsvetenskapens uppdrag”, Svensk religionshistorisk årsskrift 2002, 2003

”Stig Wikander och forskningen om ariska mannaförbund”, Chaos: Dansk-norsk tidsskrift for religionshistoriske studier, no. 38, 2002

”I skuggan av kors och hakkors. Om Wilhelm Schmidts, Wilhelm Koppers och Marija Gimbutas teorier om ’indogermansk’ religion och kultur”, in Anders Andrén, Kristina Jennbert and Catharina Raudvere, eds., Myter om det nordiska. Mellan romantik och politik. Lund: Nordic Academic Press, 2001

"Aryan Mythology as Science and Ideology", Journal of the American Academy of Religion, vol. 67. no. 2, 1999. Swedish version: "Den ariska mytologin som politik och vetenskap", in Catharina Raudvere and Leif Stenberg, eds., Röster. Religionsantropologiska perspektiv, Eslöv: Brutus Östlings bokförlag Symposion, 1998

"Världens bästa myter och sagor. En begreppshistoria", Res Publica, no. 40, 1998

Michael F. Robinson, The Lost White Tribe: Explorers, Scientists, and the Theory that Changed a Continent, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2016. In ISIS. Journal of the History of Science Society, vol 108, no. 4, 2017

Bruce Lincoln, Between history and myth: Stories of Harald Fairhair and the founding of the state, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2014. In Religion, 2015, vol. 46, no. 2, 2016

David Chidester, Empire of religion: Imperialism and comparative religion, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2014. In Religion, 2015, vol. 45, no. 4

Laura Feldt (ed.), Wilderness in mythology and religion: approaching religious spatialities, cosmologies, and ideas of wild nature, De Gruyter, Boston, 2012. In Method and theory of the study of religions, vol. 27, no. 3, 2015. Swedish version: In Chaos: Skandinavisk tidsskrift for religionshistoriske studier, nr 59, 2013

Linda S. Schearing & Valarie H. Ziegle, Enticed by Eden: How culture uses, confuses, (and sometime abuses) Adam and Eve, Baylor University Press, Waco, 2013. In Religion, vol. 45, no. 1, 2015

Peter Staudenmaier, Between occultism and Nazism: anthroposophy and the politics of race in the fascist era, Brill, Leiden, 2014. In Correspondences. Online Journal for the Academic study of Wester Esotericism, vol. 2, 2014

Robert A. Orsi (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Religious Studies, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2012. In Religion, vol. 44, no. 2, 2013

Bruce Lincoln. Gods and Demons, Priests and Scholars: Critical Explorations in the History of Religions, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2012. In Method & Theory in the Study of Religion, vol. 25, no.1, 2013

Wim van Binsbergen & Eric Venbrux (eds.), New Perspectives on Myth: Proceedings of the Second Annual Conference of the International Association for Comparative Mythology, Shikanda Press, Leiden/Haarlem, 2008. In Anthropos. Internationale Zeitschrift für Völker- und Sprachenkunde, vol. 107, no. 2, 2012

Susannah Heschel, The Aryan Jesus: Christian theologians and the Bible in Nazi Germany, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 2008. In Journal of Religion in Europe, vol. 3, no 1, 2010

Horst Junginger (ed.), The study of religion under the impact of fascism, Brill, Leiden, 2008. In Religion, vol 19, no.1, 2008

Jacques Derrida & Gianni Vattimo (eds.), Religionen, Anthropos, Gråbo, 2004 and Bruce Lincoln, Holy terrors: Thinking about religion after September 11, Univ. of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2003. In Svensk religionshistorisk årsskrift 2005, 2006

Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, Hitler's priestess: Savitri Devi, the Hindu-Aryan myth, and Neo-Nazism, New York University Press, New York, 1998. In History of Religions, vol. 40, no. 4, 2001

Britt-Mari Näsström, Nordiska gudinnor: Nytolkningar av den förkristna mytologin, Bonnier, Stockholm, 2009. In Dagens Nyheter 12/1 2009

J. R. R. Tolkien, The legend of Sigurd and Gudrún, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston, 2009. In Dagens nyheter 28/9 2009

Benedictus XVI, Jesus från Nasaret. Part one: Från dopet i Jordan till Kristi förklaring, Artos, Skellefteå, 2007 and "Introduction" by Terry Eagleton in Giles Fraser &, Terry Eagleton (ed.), The Gospels: Jesus Christ, Verso, London, 2007. In Dagens nyheter 27/4 2008

Heather Anne Pringle, Härskarplanen: Himmlers jakt på det ariska ursprunget, Historiska media, Lund, 2007. In Dagens nyheter 13/12 2007

Gilles Deleuze, Nietzsche och filosofin, Daidalos, Göteborg, 2003. In Svenska Dagbladet 4/9 2003

Slavoj Žižek, Did somebody say totalitarianism? Five interventions in the (mis)use of a notion, Verso, London, 2001 and ditto, "Afterwords. Lenin's choice" in V.I. Lenin, Revolution at the gates: A selection of writings from February to October 1917, Verso, London, 2002. In OBS Kulturkvarten 17/12 2002

Carlo Ginzburg, History, rhetoric, and proof, Univ. Press of New England, Hanover, N.H., 1999 and ditto, No island is an island: four glances at English literature in a world perspective, Columbia University Press, New York, 2000. In Dagens Nyheter 8/8 2001

Terry Eagleton, The idea of culture, Blackwell, Oxford, 2000. In Dagens Nyheter 6/11 2001

Peter Kemp, Döden och maskinen: en introduktion till Jacques Derrida, Symposion, Stockholm, 1990. In Helsingborgs Dagblad, augusti 1990


Den lilla marxisten: En sorts ordbok, B. Östlings bokförlag Symposion, Eslöv, 2005

"Hjärna och hjärta i ett marxistiskt bibliotek", Jan Myrdalbiblioteket: En antologi, forthcoming

"Små barns första möte med Adolf Hitler: Dagboksanteckningar från deltagande observation i det egna hemmet", HumaNetten, no. 29, 2012

"Socialism som livsåskådning. Terry Eagletons 'metafysiska' eller 'teologiska' vändning", Socialistisk debatt, no. 3, 2008

With Nina Björk: "Kulturromantik", Glänta. Tidskrift för filosofi, konst, litteratur, psykoanalys, film och kritik, no. 3, 2008

"Berättelsen om arierna", RIT (Religionsvetenskaplig InternetTidskrift), no. 1, 2001

Extra-scholarly and polemic texts

Socialismens själ. Arkiv förlag/A-Z förlag. 2021

With Nina Björk. "Absolut individualism är omöjlig". In Dagens ETC. 1/5 2018

"Harry Schein trodde på progressiva framsteg". In Dagens Nyheter 15/4 2017

"Religion måste ses i dess historiska sammanhang". In Dagens Nyheter 15/1 2016

"Politik snarare än religion lockar unga till IS". In Dagens Nyheter 23/12 2015

"Humaniora hjälper oss att förstå det främmande". In Dagens Nyheter 23/6 2015.

"Våldsdåden måste förstås som religiös politik och öppnar för nya frågor". In Dagens nyheter 4/2 2015

"Den humanistiska religionsforskningens kulturrelevans". In the blog Religionsvetenskapliga kommentarer, 25/2 2014

"En ny riktning mot fascism". In Dagens Nyheter 28/11 2013

"Vissa frågor är komplexa, trots allt". In Dagens Nyheter 31/3 2010

"Teologiska fakulterer bör avskaffas" (or "Helgesson trampar i klaveret"). In Dagens Nyheter 8/6 2009

"Skilj på tro och vetande". In Sydsvenska Dagbladet 5/10 2008.

"Alla vill inte fostras till liberaler". In Dagens nyheter 21/2 2008

"Staten bör hålla sig borta. Låt präster och imamer forma sin egen tro". In Dagens nyheter 11/2 2008

"Formproblematiken hos Marx. Eller hur man inte skapar en renässans för marxismen". In Häften för Kritiska Studier, 195/196 2007

"Barbaren har kommit tillbacka". In Dagens Nyheter, juni 2000

"Varför inte Förnuftets helg?" In Sydsvenska Dagbladet, 27/12 2000

"Troll spricker i dagsljus och mår illa i en människovärdig värld". In Sydsvenska Dagbladet, 30/ 11 2000

"Religion måste granskas". In Sydsvenska Dagbladet 13/4 1997

Bruce Lincoln, "På spaningen efter den germanska krigsguden: Georges Dumézil, politik och forskning under det sena 1930-talet". In Svensk religionshistorisk årsskrift 1998, 1999


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